This article originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.
There is simply no sugarcoating it – the pandemic dealt a devastating blow to the retail sector, whether it was apparel shops, office supply stores, neighborhood gyms, jewelry store chains, restaurants, you name it. Pre-pandemic 2019 was already a tough year for retailers, with nearly 10,000 brick-and-mortar locations shuttered, according to Coresight Research; 2020 followed with 8,736 closures of its own.
Thankfully, in 2021 there are signs of hope. Because of widespread vaccination distribution, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, and pent-up consumer demand, things are starting to turn for the retail segment. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts 2021 retail sales growth between 6.5 and 8.2 percent – exceeding the 4.4 percent average increase during the previous five years.
Consequently, many retail owners who were focused on merely surviving for the past 16 months are now starting to focus on the two- to five-year horizon. To go from surviving to thriving, they will be making investments in the future. One of these investments should be a modern video surveillance system – one that can not only help retailers keep their property and people safe, but also improve operational efficiencies and customer experiences, and even increase revenue.
While customer safety and issues like mask enforcement are different in a post-pandemic world, many of the traditional challenges retail owners have faced remain the same; in fact, some have even been exacerbated by the year-plus lockdown.
A cloud-based video management system (VMS) is major tool that integrators can offer to retailers; however, as with any markets, it is important to understand a retailer’s specific pain points before offering a solution. Understanding these headaches will help integrators explain the benefits of the system to prospects and customers. Not only will you be helping them cure these headaches, but because cloud video surveillance is based on a subscription model, the integrators can create RMR as well.
12 Retailer Headaches Cured by a Cloud VMS
1. Managing multiple locations. Many retail owner/operators need visibility into multiple locations spread across a wide swath of geography. A cloud VMS gives users access to multiple locations in a single platform, viewable via any device.
2. Centrally managed operations. A cloud VMS enables the ability to quickly and easily assign and revoke access and permission levels, which is especially valuable in retail, where high turnover, seasonal surges, and transient workforces are prevalent. For example, a retailer may want access to all cameras at all 100 locations; however, regional managers’ access should be limited to just the cameras in their regions, and individual store managers should be restricted to only their store cameras.
3. Insight into day-to-day operations. Advanced analytics, which are popular with today’s VMS, turn a video security system into a powerful optimization tool. Retailers receive visibility into the day-to-day operations of a store, while also gaining insight into opportunities for security and customer experience improvement. For example, a people counting analytic could identify how many people visited a location, what peak business hours are, and how often consumers passed a display. Using this analytic, retailers can make on-the-fly staffing decisions, moving employees from slow stores to busy ones, and also make more informed long-term staffing decisions. It also gives retailers insight into customer traffic flow and behaviors, informing the store layout.
Other valuable analytics for retail include loitering detection, which can help reduce vandalism and break-ins by identifying people and cars who linger longer than a pre-configured dwell time; camera tampering, which keeps owner/operators alerted to cameras that are blocked, moved, or otherwise tampered with; and line crossing, which detects when vulnerable areas are breached and notifies users in real time.
4. A shallow labor pool. While retail businesses may finally be expanding, the labor pool seems to be shrinking. According to a recent National Restaurant Association survey, more than 80 percent of operators have job openings they are struggling to fill. A VMS that helps protect retail employees at work and as they come and go from often late-night and early-morning shifts is essential for bolstering a business’s reputation and attracting and retaining good workers.
5. Remaining COVID precautions. Video analytics can help store owners monitor physical distancing and occupancy levels, ensure personnel and customers are wearing face coverings, and improve the customer experience at drive-through or curbside delivery.
6. Product shrinkage. Thin margins in the retail sector means loss of inventory can make the difference between making and losing money; thus, reducing inventory losses can be the key to unlocking income potential. Cloud video surveillance can reveal instances of loss and help uncover underlying causes. With cameras strategically positioned outside of food storage and prep areas at restaurants, for example, owners can use the video footage to keep a regular check on food portions, as well as for training purposes.
7. Employee theft. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates 75 percent of employees steal from the workplace, most of whom do so repeatedly, and the average dollar loss per dishonest employee is $1,139.32, according to the 2020 National Retail Security Survey.
Video integration with a point of sale (POS) system can go a long way toward deterring and identifying employee theft. The integrated solution enables retail operators to flag and review questionable transactions, find theft and fraud incidents more efficiently, conduct investigations more effectively, and provide easy-to-use transaction summaries. In addition, integrating video management with POS systems increases visibility of sales activities, enabling retailers to analyze and compare performance metrics – like customer wait times, promotional effectiveness, and conversion rates – to identify trends and discover potential business improvements.
8. Limited budget. Budget constraints make purchasing an off-the-shelf “security kit” that contains a cheap DVR and four to eight cameras attractive to some retailers. While this may be inexpensive in the beginning, it could end up costing these retailers in the long run. Moving the computing and video storage infrastructure to the cloud results in a total cost of ownership (TCO) considerably below a typical onsite system – between 20 and 50 percent less. Here are a few examples:
- Continuous delivery software engineering, which provides incremental software improvements in intervals of weeks, rather than months or years – eliminating staff learning curves that often occur with typical client-server software update cycles.
- Automatic security and feature updates with no action needed by the service provider or customer.
- The ability to add and subtract video analytics and other system capabilities on-demand, paying only for the period in which they are used.
- Freedom to expand video retention, recording resolution and frame rate on a per-camera basis, without having to make any on-premise infrastructure changes.
9. Scaling with growth. Adding locations and cameras, increasing the number of users, adjusting camera resolution, and extending video retention periods are just some of the reasons retailers need a scalable solution. Cloud-based solutions are designed for this scalability.
10. Liability. With a legacy surveillance system, cameras could be offline during important events, and the owner/operator would never know. Cloud VMS enable alerts to be added to any analytics and sent directly via text message or email to designated employees. Users can also designate a specified period of time when alerts are active – for example, only when the store is closed. Deep-linked, time-stamped footage emailed from custom alerts take viewers directly to the recording of events, allowing them to quickly pinpoint when an incident or theft occurred and share video evidence with law enforcement.
11. Infrastructure restrictions. Many locations inherited by retailers already have existing cameras and cabling. There are several ways to affordably upgrade a legacy system to a cloud VMS by reusing most, if not all, of the existing cabling infrastructure and cameras; in fact, a true cloud VMS allows for the mixing and matching of new cameras with legacy ones.
12. Bandwidth limitations. Access to high internet speeds is not yet universal. If a shop is located in a strip mall, for example, those employees and customers are sharing the available bandwidth with tens and possibly hundreds of other retailers during business hours. Bandwidth usage is often stretched thin to accommodate everyone. In this case, users can use a cloud-based surveillance system to continue to record and store footage on-site, only moving video footage to the cloud after hours, when bandwidth is more readily available.
Will Harris is Reseller Program Director for Eagle Eye Networks. Request more info about the company at www.securityinfowatch.com/11316341.